Firebirds Change Organizational Structure

Posted: January 22, 2016 by OHLInsiders in Flint Firebirds News, News, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

The Flint Firebirds have named Sergei Kharin Director of Player Personnel. Kharin was brought in last month at the same time as the firing of GM Terry Christensen. Kharin’s role was to act as an advisor/assistant to malintentioned owner Rolf Nilsen.

Kharin has a wealth of playing experience, mostly back home in native Russia but he also spent part of a season in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets before moving on to various other minor professional leagues such as the IHL and the UHL.

Kharin and Nilsen do have a history together, I do not know exactly where it stemmed from but there are multiple stories online about them having participated in events such as alumni games together in the past.

Further to being appointed Director of Player Personnel for the Firebirds, Kharin then took that title and used it to place himself on the Firebirds bench. So yes, the man who was hired by Rolf Nilsen as an advisor/assistant a month ago, now has effectively made his way to an assistant coach.

Kharin’s first appearance on the Firebirds bench came on Thursday night in Windsor.

The Firebirds do have room on the bench following the firing of Rolf’s last “snake,” Petr Jonak. But it seems he’s replaced a snake with a snake. Where everywhere else people have to work for their titles, if you’re on good terms with Rolf Nilsen you’re automatically eligible for Director of Player Personnel/GM/Assistant Coach with the Firebirds.

So…Anyone want a job? Befriend Rolf Nilsen and explain to him why you believe Hakon should be playing 15 minutes a night, and you’ve got your foot, arm and nose in the door.

One trusted Firebirds source says “He just kind of  placed himself on the bench without talking to other coaches.” Of course referring to Sergei Kharin. “Like, he was Rolf’s Assistant before but now he’s director of hockey ops?”

I’m not trying to rip on Kharin here, I just like to see people work their way to the top. Nothing should be handed to anyone, perhaps even more so in junior hockey where there are so many trying to make a name for themselves and futures are on the line.

The general consensus is that the majority of the Firebirds staff will not be returning next year. Whether they are fired, or they quit, it doesn’t much matter because if they aren’t fired, they’re likely quitting anyways, barring significant changes. Everyone, especially the Firebirds players and fans want to see John Gruden and Dave Karpa stay on next year but unless the OHL regains control of the team and Rolf Nilsen is out of the picture, I don’t see that happening.

What a mess. We haven’t even discussed players yet.

If you’ve been following along, you’d know that NHL teams have been watching this situation closely. Earlier on we saw the inevitable move of Carolina prospects Alex Nedeljkovic and Josh Wesley and have since seen the departure of New Jersey Devils prospect Connor Chatham.

I’ve been told Detroit Red Wings prospect Vili Saarijarvi will not be returning to the OHL to play for a Firebirds team which Gruden is not the coach. His options include the AHL with Grand Rapids and if he doesn’t make the cut there he can go back home and play in Finland or play USHL hockey, perhaps for a team coached by John Gruden. But lets not look that deeply into it.

Days before the OHL/GOJHL trade deadline, overage forward Connor Sills had just about had enough. “Just so much sh*t in Flint this year.” He was seeking his release, but unfortunately the price tag that comes with that didn’t much make sense for anybody and a release was not granted before the deadline. So, what does that mean?  “Means I’m in Flint for now unless sh*t starts to hit the fan again with Nilsen.”

So unfortunate that these players have to deal with organizational drama like this. They’re just looking to play hockey and advance their careers. They didn’t ask for any of this, all these boys work so hard to get to the OHL only to have this happen.

So we’ll see how much more everyone can take! Say what you will about players having too much control but one thing I know for certain is Ryan McLeod made one of the best decisions of his life when he decided not to report to Flint.

  1. hockeyfan says:

    As far as trades go some of the best players on all teams have been traded at all levels it is simply part of the hockey business. We both get our information from the same sources, this discussion is strictly conflicting opinions. It is not that I do not understand the situation I just feel it has all started because of the coaching staff wanting to run the business their way. Nobody will let them do what they want and they need to understand that. If you do not like the team you do not need to go against them. I like the team and organization and I am defending it if you don’t like it you do not have to respond to everything and explaining to every one your thoughts. The team is great for flint and I would like it to stay there. Please stop posting rumors, and find something you enjoy, that is all.


  2. Danny says:

    This situation resembles the Sudbury Wolves the last 3 seasons with Mark Burgess who had his son Connor drafted in the 3rd round where he wasn’t even ranked and could have been taken in the 15th round. Two coaches and two seasons later here we are still in last place all because the selfish decision by Mr.Burgess who made it impossible for anyone in this organization to do their job because his son had to be on the ice. Francesco Vilardi who was drafted ahead of Connor never made the team and was subsequently traded. Other players who voiced their displeasure were shown the door and dealt or sent home. This type or ordeal is just disastrous to any organization. The players suffer because the team doesn’t ice the best team possible, the draft picks are not the picks you should be getting because most agents have them avoid Sudbury and the fans see losing seasons after losing seasons. Good luck in Flint cause it will be years until things matter. We are still suffering because the owner’s son quit on his own accord because of all the negative attention, pressure, fans booing him(directed to owner) and can’t imagine what was said on the ice to him by the opponents and now the owner is bitter.


  3. hockeyfan says:

    Again, Michigan is an “at-will” employment state. This means both the employer and employee are free to terminate the employment at any given time, and for any legitimate purpose, with or without cause. No reason need to fire. Sorry Professional sports franchises are big business and not “LOVE ” game. Owners according to league rules in order to make all business decision. I only wish them good luck in the future,


    • MICH Res says:

      Perhaps you need to “at-will” yourself back to school because your post is so poorly written I have no idea what you’re trying to say. I suspect that it’s something along the lines of “it’s big $ sports and the owners call the shots so tough luck everyone else…” Hard to tell – Mr. Nilsen was it? Good luck with the team next year when no players are willing to report.


      • hockeyfan says:

        There is no need to spread more rumors about the team especially about players as it is not their problem to deal with. Their job is to play hockey and advance their skills in the game not focus on coaching drama and flint gives them the best opportunity to do so.
        They also need to be invited back to the team in the first place and that is a decision for the staff. You cannot make it for them.


    • Sheep-are-sheep says:

      After reading through these posts, hockeyfan is obviously either related to Nilsen, or possibly is Nilsen. Or is at the very least somewhere on the Nilsen staff/payroll/gravy train.

      In fact – the more I read the posts it seems logical to me that it is highly likely hockeyfan is actually Sergei Kharin himself. That would explain everything from the grammar to the illogical viewpoint and misaligned assessment of what has been happening. Who else but Sergei would be thinking like this? Other than Hakon maybe? And I doubt even he’d be on here defending daddy.


      • hockeyfan says:

        As a fan of the team I don’t want to mean any harm towards the team. I feel the situation should just be left to the owner and his staff. In words that executive staff have been responding to this is completely absurd. The staff has bigger and better problems to deal with rather than respond to a rumor. If anything the original post was written or influenced by the coaches in an attempt to save they’re jobs and players. I feel that creating negative feelings on this site about the situation will not help or influence this problem in any way. After all everyone would like this situation to stabilize soon one way or another.
        In conclusion this site is attempting to single out key members of the team and it is embarrassing the entire organization. I felt there should be two sides to the situation and needed to explain my thoughts on it.


      • Spencer S says:

        No, he’s not Sergei Kharin or Nilsen, he just doesn’t know anything about the situation. He doesn’t know that Rolf has tried relentlessly to get his son, a ROOKIE defender, and 7th best D-man on the team, to play top pairing minutes. He never heard the part about Nilsen trading top players, not to accumulate assets for a rebuild (which almost EVERY CHL team has to do every 4 years or so, so usually every team sucks for a couple years, then are great for a year or two), but just to weaken the team so Gruden had no chance of winning, and making a re-firing look justified. It just amazes me that someone with so little knowledge of the situation can be this prominent in a conversation


  4. hockeyfan says:

    Nilson also brought in Karpa and Gruden who seem “qualified.” and give the chance. Even though Karpa has never coached a day in his life and Gruden has the team on a horrible losing streak and only care about his personal conflict and problems as a result players performance got worse and they wanting to quit the team. Rolph is attempting to rebuild flint as a whole and develop players for future seasons. While the coaches have a completely different mindset as they look as though they are seeking a championship at any cost. Rolph has done as much possible for the city of flint as the team has brought a new heart beat back to the city. He also is doing his best for his players as he has put millions and millions of dollars into education and the facility for the players to develop. Rolph should not be taking the full brunt of this problem as he has attempted to do all he can to develop players for their future in the sport. The coaches on the other hand would just like to be seen as championship winning coaches and advance on to bigger and better things.Change is desperately needed in flint organization. If this happens it should create a fun safe environment in flint for the team to thrive.


    • OHLInsiders says:

      Couldn’t be more wrong here. Just because Rolf is pouring money into it doesn’t make him a good owner. He does have one of if not the deepest pockets in the OHL which is likely what got him the team in the first place. Hindsight 20/20 I don’t think the OHL gives him the team.

      The only future he is interested in is one without Karpa & Gruden and right now you’re seeing a record that will provide him with enough reason to refire both of those guys post season. In fact, I’d even go as far as using the Nedeljkovic/Wesley/Chatham fleecing as evidence of Rolf being the one who wants to tank so the eventual refiring would seem warranted. At the end of the day, he’s the one yaying or naying those deals.

      Coaches are doing what they can with what they have. Just because Karpa hadn’t coached at all doesn’t mean the guys don’t love him. Keep in mind how well they were doing before this whole debacle started. Coaching is 100% not to blame except for perhaps Jonak & now Kharin.

      If Rolf cared about “develop(ing) players for future seasons” you’d think Hakon wouldn’t be out there taking valuable minutes away from other promising players.

      Change is desperately needed but it’s not going to make the team thrive any time soon as they still have the same malintentioned owner. Everything goes through him and when him is crooked, well….


  5. hockeyfan says:

    Michigan is an “at-will” employment state. This means both the employer and employee are free to terminate the employment at any given time, and for any legitimate purpose, with or without cause. People get fire and leave employment every day if they not happy.He can leave any time.
    You say p
    layers walk out because they believed in Gruden system? How you know they believed in Gruden system and not being brainwashed by coaching staff. You think player like loosing every game and not try to go play pro level hockey just for Gruden? Seriously? What type a system is this?
    You absolutely wrong!


  6. Hockeydad1973 says:

    This organization will not be able to survive as long as the owner is involved in hockey operations.


    • hockeyfan says:

      Every owner involve in hockey operations in every sport!


      • Spencer S says:

        Yes, but this owner has completely screwed this organization up. Key word in hockeydad’s statement is THIS organization’s owner. You don’t seem to understand this situation, in which case, you shouldn’t be commenting on it. But since you opened your mouth and crammed your foot so far in it, let me just explain to you why this is all happening. The owner, Rolf Nilsen, got upset with H. Coach John Gruden and his Asst. Dave Karpa, over the fact that Rolf’s son, Hakon, a FIRST-YEAR, ROOKIE Defenseman, who is the Firebirds 7th-best defenseman, AT BEST, wasn’t playing 20 minutes a night. Being their 7th best defender, he shouldn’t really have been appearing in that many games with Flint at all, barring an injury, or you’re playing a crappy team. And I’ve read all of your other short-sighted, half-witted comments, and it really amazes me, for someone who really knows so little about this situation, how much you have to say.
        Here it is, here’s where all this started, one final time, and then re-consider who is truly at fault here, because you’re dead wrong if you answer Gruden & Karpa.
        Owner’s son, who isn’t as good as 6 other D-Men in Flint, is supposed to play 20 min. per game, according to owner. Owner fires coach because he won’t give owner’s son those 20 minutes that he doesn’t deserve. Owner is forced to re-hire him based on backlash from team. Owner plans to tear down the team so a re-firing at the end of the season looks justified, even though it won’t be. Owner has head so far up his own a**, he can’t tell left from right.


  7. hockeyfan says:

    Its a great thing that this organization made changes and bring more Highly qualified people to the team after what has happened in the past. The coaches need to go.. as the team is struggling with them there. The team is on a 15 game losing streak. I don’t understand why players would love coaches back (according the author with no name under) so much when they lose games 6-1 and 7-1 with them there consistently…what is the hockey future this guy have with this coaching staff… Players make a Huge… mistake to support them in the pass and now we all observed the result. Team is suffering and in need New Role Model who will be a Leaders in the team and will be aware of ethical responsibilities to society and the community in which they work and live, coaches who will exercise integrity in the practice of coaching and be honest, fair and respectful of others in the organization the work and serve the interest of the sport in OHL Hockey and Flint Firebirds organization, coaches who will recognize a personal problem may harm participants and his performance, coaches who must have an obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent personal conflict and problems internally and not go to public( according this article and many more before…) and talk trash about your boss, coworkers and organization who the work for. We need Coaches who communicate in a respectful way and not creating Hostile Work Environment!


  8. hockeyfan says:

    If you are confident in what you write please release your name under the article and who you get your info from so we know its true. It looks like this is written by someone who would want to keep their job in the team and by posting this article trying to create more problems again on the team and afraid of change in the organization.This is a great organization, every start up year has its problems.


  9. hockeyfan says:

    Well… all this drama was created by coaching staff Grudin and Karpa . They brain wash kids and who say fans want to see Gruden and Karpa next year? Team is loosing every game… sound this bestseller article created by coaching staff again.


    • Spencer S says:

      With all due respect, hockeyfan, have you been paying attention to this issue at all? You’re right that this has become a hostile work environment for the players, but you obviously haven’t followed the story in its entirety. Let me give you an update:
      -Earlier this season, Owner Rolf Nilsen, out of the blue, fired Head Coach John Gruden & Asst. Coach Dave Karpa, for not giving his son enough minutes. This would have been a valid reason had his son been worthy of more minutes, but his son is a rookie, who, in terms of ability, is far down the depth chart. The players walked out because they believed in Gruden’s system. How can you blame Gruden and validate that firing and say that he is the reason for this debacle when he is the only person in Flint trying to do his job correctly? If you know anything about junior hockey, you’d know that the circle of life is much, much shorter compared to the NHL. Teams have to rebuild every 4 years or so, they have to trade their veteran stars to accumulate high draft picks, then use those picks to become contenders in 2-3 years. Usually, they will have 1-2 years of dominance. The Firebirds are in the process, and that’s why they have a very poor record. Sudbury and Guelph have MUCH worse records than Flint, and all of their executives will be back next year because it’s just part of a team’s life cycle. John Gruden is a good coach, Rolf Nilsen, is a SELFISH, POWER-HUNGRY, SHORT-SIGHTED Owner. The people Nilsen has brought in are not highly qualified, as much as they are just pathetic little yes-men who don’t care about the team and are earning a paycheck by agreeing to help sabotage Gruden & Karpa.


  10. Jason Pearson says:

    This situation reminds me of the 1988-89 Kingston Raiders where Lou Kazowski was forced out after only one season of ownership. Let’s hope it works out for the sake of the OHL.


Join in the discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s